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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Inside the season at Marie Reed Part III: Ball control

This fall, DC SCORES intern Mir’ed Asfour is following the boys and girls teams at Marie Reed Elementary School, the flagship school of our program. Check back each week for posts highlighting the students and coaches at Reed; detailing the successes and struggles of the season; and placing in the spotlight everything that goes on behind the scenes during a DC SCORES soccer season.

See photos from the season on Flickr


Written by Mir’ed Asfour

Passing, passing and more passing.

“When you are receiving the ball, I want you to move. As soon as you see your partner sending the ball, I want you to move to receive it,” Coach Lacomba explained as she introduced Reed’s girls to a dribbling and passing drill. “You’re going to dribble all the way down and come back, and when you get to the line, you pass the ball to your partner.”

As I walked into Reed’s gym, the afternoon’s agenda was made very clear. Passing and control was the emphasis of the day. The Reed girls continued to struggle maintaining possession of the ball, receiving passes and sending passes. For every pass that was successfully received, two or three rolled across the gym floor, in search of a foot.

As I noted last week, Lacomba has stressed that the girls don’t make themselves chase the ball. But once again, she was displeased with what she saw. “I’m not happy” was repeated several times throughout practice as inaccurate passes sent from one teammate to another traveled wide, causing the girls to run after the balls, over and over.

A positive note from the practice was the dramatic improvement in dribbling skills from last week. Praise from Lacomba was fired out to the girls left and right -- “Much better!” .. “Good form!” and “Nice footwork!”

“I have a very young team, only maybe two or three have played in the past,” Lacomba said. “I think that they’re working on their fundamentals. There is good spirit. I think that they are getting along very well, very enthusiastic. The rest is giving them the little experience that they need, giving them a chance to play and touch that ball more often, and continuing having fun.

“I think passing is one of our weakest points. They’re getting their footwork and dribbling a little bit good, but passing needs to be a little more consistent and more accurate. As you saw, most of our practice is geared toward passing.”

Lacomba did notice, however, that there has been improvement “in the real understanding of the basics of soccer. Some of them had trouble with basic rules, so now they’re grasping the basic rules. Moving the ball and talking to each other, I see an improvement. The spacing out is working out much better. They’re becoming more aware they cannot all run behind the ball.”

Coach Lacomba aspires for her team “to continue strengthening our skills, feeling more comfortable on the field and continuing having fun.”

As I walked from Reed’s gym, up a flight of stairs, out the door, and to their field where the boys were practicing, I ran into a familiar face. Tanvir R., whom I noticed observing the first practice I attended, was at the field to greet me.

Tanvir was helping Coach Lenaghan with several tasks, before briefly stopping by and updating me on the team’s performance.

“They got way better!” Tanvir proclaimed. “They’re good. All they need to do is communicate and pass -- they’ve won all the games they’ve played.”

Improvement, of course, is a never-ending process.

Lenaghan was recapping earlier drills in practice when I arrived, asking what the boys had learned thus far. Lenaghan asked the boys if the field was straight, which was replied to by a flurry of no’s.

“It’s our home field, it’s our home-field advantage,” he said. “I know that big dirt pile there that’s like a crater. I’m probably not going to want to put a ball there. It’s going to get caught up; our team won’t be able to get it.”

After the quick recap, the boys practiced dribbling up and down the field alternating their feet as fast as they could to practice ball possession. That drill was followed by a shielding drill, in which a ball was passed to one player, and a second defender would come in and attempt to steal it. The boys were to use the shielding technique that their coach taught to them the previous practice. If the player with the ball could shield it effectively, maintain possession, and stay in bounds for at least 10 seconds, the offense gets a point. If, on the other hand, the defender steals the ball, he gets the point.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on perspective, no offensive player was able to receive a point, which demonstrates the need to practice ball control more -- and indicates that Reed has a good defense.

As Tanvir noted, the boys needed to work on passing, which was next on Coach Lenaghan’s agenda. The boys were split into three groups, and two groups at a time took the field. One group would be given the ball with the sole purpose of maintaining possession by passing between one another.

Lenaghan counted the time as the offensive players dribbled and passed between each other. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, that was out! What was the mistake he made?” Lenaghan quizzed the team after the possession exchanged for the first time, “It was a nice drag back, but we’ll save the Messi move.”

The groups rotated back and forth, but none of them were able to beat the previous record set at a former practice. No group was able to get over 20 seconds, not even halfway to the previous record of 44 seconds. Passing and maintaining possession will continue to be a focal point as there is much room for improvement, regardless of the team being undefeated.

Coach Lenaghan ended practice optimistically after seeing his team struggle a bit.  

“Don’t be discouraged by what happened here with the passing,” he said. “... I think we just forgot some of the fundamentals we were doing on Friday because you guys were making really good runs off the ball. What I saw was kind of a lot of people standing there saying, ‘Give it to me, give it to me!’ but were not moving around.

“Tomorrow when we have our game, remember our positions, remember the size of the field, remember to use space. There is plenty of green or brown space here, so use it as well as you can. If we get bunched up, we won’t be able to use it as well.

“So let’s get a Reed on three!”

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